Hours before being sworn in as the Himachal Pradesh chief minister for a record sixth time, a local court on Monday acquitted Congress leader Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh of charges in a 23-year-old corruption case.
While pronouncing the 24-page judgement, special judge BL Soni said, "There is no evidence relating to commission of any misconduct on the part of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh; therefore, they are acquitted of the charges against them."
The court acquitted the two of charges under section 120-B of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
They were booked for alleged misuse of official position and criminal misconduct when Virbhadra was the chief minister in 1989. The case related to an audio CD that allegedly contained a conversation of Virbhadra and his wife with IAS officer Mohinder Lal and some industrialists regarding monetary transactions for them to invest in the state.
Singh had all along maintained that the case against him was fabricated. After the prosecution filed a chargesheet before the trial court in October 2010, the special judge framed charges in the case on June 25, 2012. Consequently, Virbhadra Singh had to quit the union cabinet.
The vigilance department had lodged an FIR against Virbhadra Singh and his wife on August 3, 2009 on the basis of the audio CD released by Vijai Singh Mankotia at a press conference at Dharamsala on May 28, 2007.
The trial court framed charges against the couple. The prosecution furnished a list of 61 witnesses in the case and KL Kashyap, deputy secretary, was the first witness cited by the prosecution.
Virbhadra Singh, who returned from Delhi on Monday afternoon, was present in the court along with Pratibha Singh.
May 28, 2007: Mankotia releases an audio CD allegedly containing telephonic conversations of monetary transactions between Virbhadra Singh, Pratibha Singh, an IAS officer and an industrialist
May 21, 2008: CD given to CFS lab, Chandigarh
August 3, 2009: State vigilance registers FIR against Virbhadra
Sept 3, 2010: High court allows vigilance to prosecute Virbhadra
June 25, 2012: Court frames charges
June 26: Virbhadra resigns from union ministry
Dec 24: Virbhadra and wife acquitted of charges